Coping Without Father

Stephen Arterburn

Beneath the surface of many strong, seemingly together, male exteriors are frightened little boys who are still desperately searching for affirmation and validation as a man. If we’re going to be honest, we should admit that’s where a lot of men live today. Many of us are unsure of how to carry off the masculine role, so we hide our fears behind masks of strength because that’s what our fathers did. But when the fa’ade is threatened on the job or at home, the cornered little boy lashes out in anger.

Whether it’s due to divorce, addiction, overwork, or the widespread crisis of fathers who’ve abdicated their roles to others, many of us have, in a very real way, lost our fathers. That’s the source of a great deal of confusion, fear, and anger many of us feel.

If we’re to move forward and experience the redemptive possibilities of God in the future, we must face up to our past. As with any loss in life, a man who experiences a sense of loss in his relationship with his father must grieve. Without proper, healthy grieving the inner hurt is like an open sore’vulnerable to repeated pain and infection, and detrimental to future health.

And the greatest asset a hurting, angry man can have in this situation is a faithful, loving friend. That is, another man who’ll understand him and stand with him as he, with God’s help, rediscovers his masculinity.

DipSea

There is a race that starts in San Anselmo, California, tracks over the north bay-area’s most famous hill, Mount Tamalpais, and finishes at Stinson Beach (about 7.1 miles). For over 90 years this race has been in existence and known to be one of the most challenging hill races on the west coast. The DipSea Race has a long history of respect and it is an honor to be invited to participate in the race.

The course begins in the small town at sea level, just below 671 stairs. From the top of the stairs a runner will then proceed to climb and climb and climb to just over 1300 feet above sea level. In the accent, there are numerous hill challenges to conquer. Some of those hill challenges have been given the most daunting and haunting names (such as Cardiac, Windy hill, Suicide etc’). Then after the long push upward the decent is seemingly a welcomed process. But, as in the accent, the decent has numerous names (such as Insult) that would cause a reasonably sane person to reconsider or avoid such complexity overall.

For eight months I have been training to run this race. And two months ago I applied, hoping to be invited. Yes, training began long before I even applied to be in it. The race will contain about 1300 racers, of which only about 500 are invitation spots. The other spots are for those who ran the race last year and received a significant time qualifying them to race again.

I have thought about entering the DipSea race for over eight years and now see that the last eight months of training to possibly participate in the race has been a spiritual journey for me too.

Running a good race is beyond ‘pacing yourself.’ It truly is about appropriate physical training and mental conditioning. As referred to earlier, the names of the challenging spots on the course are for a reason. One would be a fool not to look into the course and see why these multiple areas are referred as ‘the valley of shadow of death.’

It has been my experience in life that there are many opportunities to participate in races. For example, job opportunities, church activities, and leadership positions are all types of races. But in my training and process of life I have found it profitable to first recognize whether or not I was at all emotionally and spiritually fit to perform such a task. To take an opportunity that would have life implications towards others without considering my true grounding status can lead to disasters not only for myself but my family and those whom I would serve. So I find it wise to ask, Can I take that hill? And once I get to the top of the hill, can I come down the other side with the same endurance? The honor to be asked to participate in a life race is ego-boosting; however, if I have not done prep-work to increase strength in areas that need attention, such as sexual integrity, then I risk damage in a variety of ways.

When I enter any race if I have not prepared and primed myself physically and mentally for what is before me I will become a hindrance for those who are racing along side me. I must even prepare myself for future ministry so that if and when a potential situation occurs I can approach it grounded and in the best possible shape to discern what decision needs to be made.

Entering the race to heal from sexual addiction is about training and conditioning. There are hills that will pose challenges to work through but they are definitely ones that can be conquered. And yes there are names for some of the challenging hills and valleys that can cause a runner to turn away and not face the opportunity for success. But once through those challenges, you can come out a stronger and grounded man of God.

All the training for the last few months may seem to be a waste if not accepted. However, at this point it is no longer about being accepted, but being prepared for it. And if accepted into the race the next task is to perform strong enough to be automatically brought back to try the hills next year. Irregardless, a large degree of the training and conditioning over the last eight months has made me stronger and more confident in a variety of areas.

Join the race; you don’t have to face that hill of your sexual addiction alone. And if you think you can do that race alone, you are heading for some results that will not play out well. Consider attending Every Man’s Battle as a start to your training for sexual integrity. At the EMB conference you will be challenged and you will have the opportunity to become cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually fit to take that race on.

Also see our Resources for Men.

Martin Fierro

The Perfect-Mate Myth

Stephen Arterburn

Gentlemen, North American culture wields a tremendous influence upon Christians’ values in many areas. One in particular is the area of relationships where many of us have fallen for what I call the ‘Perfect-Mate Myth.’ This myth applies to single and married men, and goes something like this: ‘If I just had the right woman, my life would be all right.’

Let me be blunt: this belief is incredibly ignorant. First, because it assumes that our problems are all external’that our real problem is an imperfect spouse or the lack thereof. Second, because it assumes that there’s such a thing as a ‘perfect’ spouse.

This delusion keeps us from spiritual maturity. It prevents married men from doing the hard work and making the commitment necessary to build and repair their relationship with their wives, and it tempts single men to put their lives on hold until that ‘perfect’ woman appears.

Men, the perfect mate myth is an unhealthy fantasy. Focus your attention on your relationship with God. He wants a married man’s attitude to be, ‘I’m in this for the long haul. I’m going to dedicate myself to and work at making this marriage last.’ This is how an active and true faith comes alive in a marriage.

Similarly, God wants the attitude of every single Christian man to be, ‘God, I’m yours, with or without a spouse, and I will focus my attention on my relationship with you.”

Whatever your situation, God is sufficient to meet your needs.